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The Mazda6 origins go back almost 30 years to the Mazda 626 medium-size sedan. A nomenclature change to its present form accompanied its repositioning as the company’s flagship in 2002.
Lately midsize SUVs have been assailing the sales charts like mountain goats at the expense of conventional sedans and wagons. The exception is the Mazda6, which has maintained a firm foothold in the market, making it the most popular midsize car import under $60,000.
With the latest update, Mazda expects to sell 380 units a month through continued evolution of its Kodo ‘Soul of Motion’ design language and a combination of driving pleasure and environmental excellence via the company’s innovative SkyActiv technology.
The latter is led by uprated vehicle dynamics; a series of new vehicle motion control technologies, providing integrated control of the engine, transmission, chassis and body to enhance the connection between car and driver.
First up is G-Vectoring Control, which varies engine torque in response to steering input, in order to enhance the vertical load on each wheel.
Mazda maintains this brings the movement of the car more in line with the driver’s intentions, reducing the need for steering corrections, including many that are made unconsciously. This reduces occupant sway and makes for a more comfortable ride. GVC also improves handling and stability on wet or unsealed roads.
Further enhancements include sound frequency technology reducing diesel engine noise, NVH improvements cutting cabin noise and i-ActivSense being expanded to include pedestrian detection included in the Smart City Brake Support system
Uprated Mazda6 is available as a sedan or station wagon, in Sport, Touring, GT and Atenza variants, with petrol or diesel power and a six-speed automatic transmission. Prices have not changed from the previous model.
The entry-level Sport petrol starts the ball rolling at $32,490, the Touring diesel is $40,140, while the top-dog Atenza leads the pack at $48,240 for the petrol and $49,540 the diesel, all plus on-road costs.
Exterior changes are limited to redesigned door mirrors, power folding from Touring variant upwards.
The range of eight colours has been augmented by Machine Grey Metallic that Mazda tells us is designed to treat colour as an element of body structure. So there…
Inside is a new steering wheel with smaller centre, slimmer chrome on the lower spoke, while upgraded instruments focus on improving the legibility. The Active Driving Display is now full colour, brighter and with more definition. This is aimed at enabling drivers to concentrate more on driving.
Warnings are now displayed in red and amber for added readability while the multi-information, displaying more functions, is also now full colour with higher definition and contrast.
The fit and finish of the interior are second to none in this price segment. Special attention has been paid to the top-of-the-range Atenza with top quality nappa leather upholstery covering plush seats, featuring coloured stitching and piping.
A bright white interior could cause some maintenance angst but visually sets off well contrasting black ceiling and pillars. Titanium colour is used to decorate the instrument panel, door trim, window switch surrounds and gear shift panel.
Texture and practicality of small parts touched by hands also have come in for serious attention; for example satin chrome plate on the power seat switches and glove box knob.
The cabin atmosphere is calm and relaxed thanks to a rigid body and efficient insulation from engine, road and wind noise.
At 2830 mm, the new Mazda6 sedan has one of the longest wheelbases in the segment making for a spacious cabin. The wagon is slightly shorter. The sedan boot is a generous 474 litres, the wagon 506 litres.
Connectivity is via hands-free phone, with a voice function able to read emails out loud when the vehicle is on the move. Pre-set messages can be used to give a suitable reply. Web content is obtainable through your smartphone.
Bose six or eleven-speaker audio systems are on offer and new in the range is DAB+ digital radio. Navigation software comes with free upgrades for three years.
Power trains are carried over from the previous Mazda6 launched in 2012. The 2.5-litre petrol unit features a high 13:1 compression ratio; a specially designed 4-2-1 exhaust system and enhanced fuel spray properties, among other things, to counter the drawbacks to such high compression.
It puts out 138 kW of power at 5700 rpm and 250 Nm of torque at 3250 rpm. Combined urban / highway fuel consumption is put at 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres and carbon dioxide emissions at 153 g/km.
The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel has common-rail direct injection and an intercooled turbocharger. The power rating is 129 kW at 4500 rpm, the torque a handy 420 Nm at a relatively low 2000 revs.
With i-stop engine technology and i-Eloop brake energy regeneration, combined fuel economy is a claimed 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
During a loop out of Melbourne on a cold (12-degree) rainy day our petrol-powered Atenza sedan was hobbled by slow moving road users but did enough to show the engine to be responsive to the pedal, if a little coarse on hard acceleration.
The powertrain, with its standard six-speed automatic transmission, has the ability to adopt a Sport mode via drive selection switch on the centre console. Drivers can enjoy smarter pedal response and a more spirited driving experience. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts offer the driver added control.
The ride is flat and generally stable. However, the firm suspension is liable to pick up road surface blemishes with bumps and bangs. The cabin atmosphere is calm and relaxed thanks to a rigid body and efficient insulation from engine, road and wind noise.
The last mentioned is the result of striking a balance between the underfloor and upper body air flow. The result is a low drag co-efficient of CD 0.27, high-speed stability and fuel economy.
Safety has been improved with additions to the Mazda i-Activsense system, including improved detection of pedestrians via a new camera up front; new traffic sign identification technology; and brake support that now operates over a wider speed range. Passive safety comes with a lightweight yet rigid body and built-in energy absorbing crumple zones.
Finally, for once a vehicle lives up to the hype heaped on it by the marketers – ‘quietly confident’ says the advert. Someone was actually taking notice.